Young Top Campaign-Money Recipient of Road Lobby

Tue September 30, 2003 - National Edition

ANCHORAGE (AP) Alaska Rep. Don Young received more money from the highway and road-building lobby for his congressional campaigns than any other member of Congress over a six-year period.

Young received $314,000 from groups and individuals in the road lobby – $100,000 more than anyone else got, according to a new report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which analyzed 1997-2002 campaign contributions.

Young received approximately five times the average given to the members of his committee, the report said.

"It’s just startling that he has received so much more than any other member," Emily Figdor, co-author of the report, told the Anchorage Daily News.

Young, as chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is the House’s chief author of the next six-year transportation bill. He has proposed increasing transportation spending by approximately 60 percent, which he would raise, in part, by increasing the tax on gasoline.

Young’s spokesman, Steve Hansen, said he didn’t know if the report’s figures were correct, but he disagreed with at least part of its premise.

The report contends that the highway lobby wrote campaign checks as part of an effort to ensure that the national transportation bill will spend more on roads, instead of mass transit, and will weaken environmental laws.

"After spending millions of dollars to help elect key members of Congress, the highway lobby is steering Congress toward destructive policies that will lead to more air pollution and sprawl and leave Americans stuck in traffic for years to come," said Navin Nayak, the other co-author of the report.

Hansen said the report’s claim that mass transit will get less is "totally false."

"These [people] don’t even know what’s in the bill – it hasn’t even been written yet. But they’re issuing a report claiming they know what’s in it," he said.

Young has said he favors spending for mass transit, in part because it eases road congestion, and that his bill will include money for trails and other "transportation enhancements" included in past transportation bills.

He also has said he wants to streamline the government permitting process so that big projects like runways and freeways can be constructed more quickly.

Another group that analyzes campaign spending, the Center for Responsive Politics, concluded that the transportation and construction industries each gave Young approximately $350,000 for the 2002 election alone. Those figures include money from other transportation sectors, such as air, marine and railroad. He raised a total of $2.2 million for that election.